Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) | Anchor Brewing Company

122 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by notchucknorris on 11-04-2013

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 122 | Ratings: 691
Photo of kindacold
3.51/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2013 bottle. Pours reddish dark brown with thick tan head that dissipates quickly. Smells of spices and grain. Light mouthfeel with fine carbonation. Lots of spices and pepper in the front, hints of celery, raisins, and a slightly hoppy finish in the back of the mouth. Throughout, there is a hint of orange pith. Slightly sticky finish.

 337 characters

Photo of jdhilt
3.51/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

2013 version, Pours a three finger khaki head that fades slowly leaving a good lace. Clear deep brown/orange color. Light-medium carbonation and medium bodied. Spicy nose and flavor is burnt cinnamon, dry woody finish. $2.50 for a 12oz bottle from Tully's Beer & Wine Wells, Me.

 278 characters

Photo of ocelot2500
3.53/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep cola color with a lot tight, tan head that leaves good sized bits of lacing.

Smells of a bit of roasted malt with some spices.

Tastes of a nice roasted malt character with some sweetness. Leads off with a bit of molasses and dark fruits. This gives way to a little brown sugar sweetness and toasted bread. Finishes with a bit of spices.

Mouth feel is medium with a smooth amount of bitterness.

Overall, I find this enjoyable, but it could use a little more oomph.

 480 characters

Photo of Botulizard
3.53/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

A: Oily black with a thick mocha head that shows a bit of reddish color as well. Lots of bubbles on the side of the glass, and a fair amount of lacing.

S: Smells strongly of ginger and fresh bread (although maybe not quite gingerbread, haha).

T: Robust spicy flavor- strong on the maltiness with a fantastically bitter finish. Very well balanced.

M: Smooth with medium-high carbonation and a wonderful slight burn from the spices upon finish.

O: My only complaint is that I wish OSA had a higher ABV so there would be the added element of alcohol warmth that I feel would really take this beer above and beyond. At 5.5%, it's a bit light for a winter warmer, but it still tastes fantastic, and I can be sure I'll be drinking a lot of these over the course of this winter.

 775 characters

Photo of a0lbudman
3.56/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- dark but when held up to the light you get a red tint and you can see that it is clear. It has a brown head and leave lace on the glass
S-spice, sweet malt,ginger, and nutmeg
T-strong ginger and spice kick to begin with, then a bitter that balances the sweetness out in the finish.
M- medium body and medium carbonation
O- very drinkable, and not as sweet as I thought it would be. Glad I tried it.

 401 characters

Photo of jwhancher
3.56/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a wide mouth chalice glass. Appears a clear garnet amber with fluffy off white head that laces the glass rim. Good carbonation. Smells of vanilla, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. Maybe a little nutmeg in there as well. Reminds me of a cinnamon Christmas cookie. Tastes sweet & spicy with supportive malts. Caramel and light cocoa flavors atop spices as found in the nose. Feels a bit thin. Light to medium feel. Wish this one had some more oomph for a winter warmer. Overall, a decent beer. Not bad, but not great. Would be a great choice to bring a sixer to a holiday party.

 600 characters

Photo of ranger7
3.58/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the bottle into a tumbler.
Review from notes: January 5th, 2014.

A: Deep dark red with a decent head.

S: Some hops, pine needles, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and dark chocolate. Intriguing and very different.

T: Somewhat bitter front and back with spices in between.

M: Thin with some carbonation.

O: Very different and unique from anything else I've had. A good seasonal offering.

 395 characters

Photo of Gmann
3.59/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pour a very deep brown color with a tight beige creamy head that settled into a light cap with lacing on the glass.

The aroma is of sweet malt, quite bready. There is a candied orange sweetness with a pine or spruce earthiness. There is a very much a fruitcake aroma to this beer.

The taste is of a pumpernickel bready base. Lots of candied fruit sweetness. Orange and pineapple seem to stand out. Some scorched caramel provides some additional sweetness. Not very hoppy, perhaps a touch of pine.

Moderate to full feel with noticeable carbonation. The beer is sweet but there is enough of an earthy bitterness. A touch sticky in the finish.

The beer captures fruitcake very well but it screams for needed hoppy flavor.

 730 characters

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.59/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled 10/24/13.

Pours a murky orange-brown with a foamy dark-khaki head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Small streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of toasted malt, gingerbread, spice, and dark fruit aromas. Taste is much the same with toasted malt and spice flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of spice bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer with a nice blend of spices in this year's version.

 559 characters

Photo of wedge
3.61/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very dark brown mahogany color with plentiful tan creaminess on top. Smells of mellow spiced fruit, toffee, molasses, pine resin, and gingerbread. Dry, spiced, somewhat gingerbread-y flavor. A little tart fruit, spruce, bitter chocolate, orange peel, and faint maple. Medium body, creamy texture, with a slickness that sticks to the tongue. Always fun to see what the next year's OSA will bring. Definitely better as it warms up.

 437 characters

Photo of dar482
3.61/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

The beer comes in a dark brown color.

The aroma has tons of spice of lots of ginger and orange peel. Lots of spiciness. Toasty malt, a bit of caramel sweetness, lots of cedar woody notes.

The flavor follows with the spice again. Ginger, nutmeg, dried orange peel. The sweetness of brown sugar, a bit of caramel, along with wood. The wood is almost cedar or aromatic wood instead of a stiff aggressive wood bitterness.

A decently balanced beer. Good for those who love spiced ales.

 483 characters

Photo of delta490
3.62/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- Poured a deep clear mahogany with a finger of thick creamy tan head. Great retention and a little lacing.

S-rich malt with Christmas spices (ginger, cinnamon, bitter orange)

T- For whatever reason, the taste doesn't quite marry up with the aroma. It's not bad and most of the same elements are present, but it's not quite as flavorful as the aroma would indicate.

M- pleasant and full, with a nice smooth feeling

O-I wish the beer's taste was as great as it's aroma. It's not bad, but the two just don't match up.

 520 characters

Photo of ARoman
3.63/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

*transferred from old notes - 12/29/2013*
12 oz bottle poured into a shaker (2013 vintage). Very aromatic beer - strong vanilla and some cocoa right off the bat, followed up by anise, cinnamon, and caramel/malt - definitely smells like Christmas. It’s an oily, syrupy pour; dark, rich mahogany color with a big, frothy, egg white head that sticks around for a nice long while. The taste is sweet and bitter, but neither is strong (more sweet than bitter). It’s a full bodied malty, syrupy drink that hits first with chocolate malt. As it coats the mouth and/or warms up, some dark cherry notes come through as well as the spiciness (cinnamon & anise mainly, but some ginger too?). Basically tastes like it smells - and that’s Xmas - but it’s not too much of anything, very mellow. A nice balance blending the viscous beer and creamy head.

 846 characters

Photo of Spikester
3.64/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Handsome dark beer with a two finger tan head with modest lacing. Smell is fruitcake with a touch of herbal hops. Taste is malty dark fruit with a slight earthy hop bitterness on the back end. A touch of brandied raisens come out in the middle. Mouthfeel is toward the thin side and carbonation is barely enough. Overall a better than average winter warmer and well worth a taste.

 380 characters

Photo of Billolick
3.65/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 ounce bottle. An annual must try favorite, going back to my earliest days of fine beer appreciation.

Pours a rich shade of dark brown, mocha head, stays well then goes to a film, thicker collar and some decent looking tongues of sticky stuff.

Chocolate, licorice, juniper on the nose.

More of the above on the palate. Meh, tastes a bit off somehow, with the chocolate note being overpowered by an off putting burnt plastic hint.

Maybe it will improve some in the bottle, but its unlikely I'll be able to witness it. These tend to be a crowd pleasing holiday favorite

 573 characters

Photo of vkv822
3.65/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

12oz : tulip

Pours a clear, dark mahogany red with a thick, billowy, sloping, beige head.

Lightly spicy, herbal, piney notes with sweet, toffee and caramel malt.

Lightly herbal, spices, with a sweet, caramel, toffee malt backbone.

Medium+ body, mild carbonation.

Another well done winter warmer from Anchor. I unfortunately missed the last 2 years versions, but am happy I got back in the spirit and will make it a point to pick some up each year from here on out.

 469 characters

Photo of buschbeer
3.67/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 FL. OZ. bottle
Served in a tumbler

A - It is a dark mahogany color with three to four inches of tan head.

S - I get a concoction of cocoa, juniper, and clove.

T - I am hit with a blast of spices. Clove and cinnamon are the easiest to identify. It finishes with roasted malt and some chocolate.

M - Medium

O - This beer always reminds me of Christmas. I know it is different each year, but my sensory experience is about the same each year when I look back at past year's reviews.

 490 characters

Photo of Rope
3.68/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Dark brown copper, little light slips through. A burnt white foamy head.

Spicy, sweet malt, and a sour hop. Smells like a festive addition to this Anchor Special Ale tradition.

Tastes like a pumpkin ale... tastes essentially like a pumpkin ale with a lagery finish.

Very thin bubbles, but gives a good flavor coating to savor.

Always fun and interesting to try the first bottle, so taste the mystery and enjoy the tradition.

 474 characters

Photo of BB1313
3.69/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a tulip. Pours an extremely dark auburn; fluffy khaki head that fades slowly and leaves great lacing and retention. The aromas are very floral. Smells like fresh flower pedals. Lots of berries. Lots of spruce and juniper. Hints of anise and cocoa. Very earthy and woodsy. The flavors are pretty sweet. Solid malt backbone. Lots of raspberry. Some spices. There's a decent amount of cocoa and toffee. Taste very good, but it still seems almost watered down, but barely. Mouthfeel is very nice. It's on the lighter side of medium-bodied; very creamy and fluffy with active carbonation. Alcohol goes unnoticed.

This is always a great holiday beer. I always appreciate the extremely unique aroma/flavor profile. This year isn't far off from previous vintages. If you're a fan of this series, you will enjoy this.

 834 characters

Photo of MarkQ617
3.69/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Split a six-pack of this with the Mrs on Christmas Eve. Typically, I prefer a bit more spice in a warmer, but this one was very good despite a relatively simple flavor profile. Very crisp, just a touch of nutmeg. A bit more carbonation than I'd like, could have been smoother. Overall, a nice holiday brew.

 306 characters

Photo of youngs11
3.69/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from bottle into pint glass.

Dark brown with some transparency. Not much going on up top other than a ring of coffee foam around the glass. Tiny spots of lacing.

Smells of cherries, cinnamon, pine, molasses. Complex and earthy.

Taste is very spicy, follows the nose really well. Bitter front end and nutty, toasty finish.

Really dry MF, nearly astringent. Medium body, prickly carbonation.

There is a lot going on in both smell and taste in this brew. Not overly excited by appearance or MF, but holds its own as a unique example of the style.

 555 characters

Photo of 57md
3.7/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a dark brown color with ruby edges. There was over a finger of tan head that took some time to dissipate and left nice lacing behind. The nose has distinct molasses notes. The flavor is also dominated by molasses. The taste is unique but very unbalanced. The sweetness of the molasses simply does not work with the mild malt profile.

The is a noble effort, but it just did not work for me.

 396 characters

Photo of GarthDanielson
3.71/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a huge bottle (gallon I think) into a shaker pint, the beer is a very dark, ruby-amber coloring with a tall, frothy, light, clingy, off-white head. A lot of carbonation and head left to settle pouring from that monster magnum bottle. Good looking once settled, though. Aromas of dark roast caramel, candied sugar, pine tassels, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice. Very heavily spiced nose. Flavors are rich on the forward tongue, with a solid molasses backbone that is dark and sweet, with roasted caramel highlights, woody notes, and a more subtle spicing of pine tassel, cut grass, peppery hops, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Smooth, rich, robust bodied, with a tangy sweet and rich aftertaste. This beer is heavy. The finish is smooth, with a subtle dryness and bitter that helps cut the otherwise cloying linger. Very tasty, and I seem to like this one more than recent year's versions. Cheers Anchor!

 913 characters

Photo of metter98
3.73/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: The beer is black when viewed from afar and is clear and very dark garnet red in color when held up to a bright light with a moderate amount of carbonation. It poured with a finger high tan head that quickly died down, leaving a patch of bubbles in the center of the glass, a collar around the edge and a thin layer of bubbles in between along with some lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: The smell has bits of sweetness along with aromas of fruit cake and ginger along with hints of cloves and molasses.
T: The taste is similar to the smell, except that the spices seem to stand out more prominently and little if any sweetness is detectable.
M: It feels medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: I really enjoyed the complexities in the smell and taste of this beer. It reminded me a little of a maltier and spicier version of a gingerbread cookie.

 889 characters

Photo of BEERchitect
3.73/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Its a curiosity-love relationship that I have with Anchor's, "Our Special Ale". Each year their similarities are going to be close and I'll always enjoy them. But I'm always going to expect more from them.

Again, the beer pours a deep bark brown hue as it builds a dense but short-statured head of sandy-tan foam. As the beer seems to dissolve into the ale only halfway through the sessioin, it amounts to pocketed lace scattered about the glass.

Wood, toast and cocoa reaches the noes in that respective order- its nose is spicy-sweet, with burnt toffee, dry molasses, coffee grounds and earthen chicory root really digging into its dry, dark and earthy tones. Obvious burnt pine needles, sap, and char round out its scent.

Its taste is of burnt toffee and dry black-strap molasses mixed with fresh ground coffee, cocoa powder, walnut oil, and a certain burnt dirt taste. Its middle is of charred toast, but not roast. Dry in its malty middle, the ale drifts into a roasted pine cone finish with resin-like bitterness, campfire and burnt embers. Even a pep of cinnamon spice with nutmeg and allspice echo in its dry wood finish.

Medium-light in body, the beer is given a bit of heft from its malty and dry chocolate upstart. But its dry finish sips over its middle development and into a woodsy-earthy-spiciness that provides an overcast of any would-be savory sweetness. Its finish is sprucy, gin-like in its warmth and with certain grain-derived astingency that impedes its drinkability somewhat.

Our Special Ale is one of those enigmas of an ale. There's nothing to suggest that this beer would improve with age, but these ales do. As this fresh example is rough about the edges and is largely immature and unrefined, versions up to five years old have proved to mature and mellow with taste and texture to all them to improve. Though nice in its fresh state, it could turn "world class" in a few years if you have better patience than I.

 1,948 characters

Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
3.74 out of 5 based on 691 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.